Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen A Mrozowski

Second Advisor

David B Landon

Third Advisor

Stephen W Silliman


Recent archaeological research has investigated the myriad ways in which persons of African descent responded to the effects of racism in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. This thesis draws on archaeological and documentary evidence from the Primus Martin site in Hyde Park, New York to explore the ceramic consumption practices of an African American household and the relationship of these practices to structures of race and inequality. Excavations at the site recovered a diverse array of ceramics, which reflect the regular occurrence of communal meals and possibly tea drinking. Based on this finding, it is suggested that entertaining was one way in which the Primus Martin household functioned in a leadership capacity for Hyde Park's African American population. In this usage, the ceramics witnessed an important moment of recontextualization that repositioned these objects within systems of meaning distinct to the needs, desires, and daily encounters of Primus Martin's community. For this group, the objects became multivalent symbols helping to coalesce a social structure that was all their own. At the same time, the ceramics maintained elements of their prior associations to Hyde Park's white population who observed this innovative, though recognizable, display. By demonstrating sameness via the consumption of mass-produced goods, the Martins articulated a presence in the world that was at odds with dominant discourses aimed at their systematic marginalization.


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